As Fast As Possible
Since AMD FreeSync is based on VESA’s Adaptive-Sync technology which is a free and open standard, it doesn’t increase the monitor’s price. FreeSync can completely eliminate screen tearing and stuttering by providing a variable refresh rate if you have a compatible graphics card, so it’s definitely worth it.
The result is a variable refresh rate (VRR) which eliminates all screen tearing, juddering, and stuttering with minimal (~1ms) input lag penalty.
Most AMD cards support FreeSync (including all newer cards). FreeSync can also work with select NVIDIA cards (GTX 10-series or newer). However, not all FreeSync monitors will work equally good when using an NVIDIA graphics card.
NVIDIA has a list of all FreeSync monitors that they’ve tested to work without issues which they certify as ‘G-SYNC Compatible’. Uncertified FreeSync monitors may work with NVIDIA cards too, but it’s not guaranteed.
Learn more about G-SYNC compatibility.
FreeSync vs G-SYNC
Unlike FreeSync, G-SYNC requires a dedicated module to be installed in the monitor. This adds to the cost of the monitor, but it also allows for a slightly lower input lag and a wider variable refresh rate range.
For instance, all G-SYNC monitors have a VRR range of 30Hz-144Hz whereas FreeSync displays usually have a more limited range of 48Hz-144Hz, 40Hz-144Hz, etc, though there are some FreeSync displays that have just as wide range.
When your FPS (Frames Per Second) rate drops below the lower end of the VRR range, the display will multiply its refresh rate in order to maintain a smooth performance until the FPS rate recovers. For instance, if your FPS rate drops to 29FPS, the monitor will change its refresh rate to 116Hz (29 x 4) on monitor with a 144Hz max refresh rate.
This is available on some FreeSync monitors as well which AMD calls LFC (Low Framerate Compensation). FreeSync monitors with narrow VRR range do not support this. For instance, a monitor with a 50Hz-100Hz range supports LFC whereas a range of 51Hz-100Hz would mean no LFC support; The higher end of the VRR range needs to be at least 2x the lower end.
Moving on, NVIDIA includes the ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur) technology for most (not all) G-SYNC monitors. This technology allows the user to enable backlight strobing for the monitor which increases motion clarity, but it can only work at certain fixed refresh rates and not at the same time as G-SYNC.
However, some FreeSync gaming monitors offer their own proprietary motion blur reduction technology, so you don’t have to rely on G-SYNC for that.
Further, G-SYNC monitors support variable overdrive which allows the response time overdrive to dynamically change according to the refresh rate. With FreeSync monitors, the selected response time overdrive option will remain the same regardless of the refresh rate.
Finally, note that AMD FreeSync works over both HDMI and DisplayPort depending on the monitor while G-SYNC only works over DisplayPort on most displays. So far, NVIDIA has allowed for VRR to be used over HDMI (using NVIDIA GPUs) only on LG’s E9 and C9 OLED TVs and certain high-end gaming displays such as the Acer Predator X27P.
When Is A G-SYNC Monitor Worth It?
In a nutshell, if you’re looking for a budget setup, getting an AMD card with a FreeSync monitor will give you the best gaming performance for the money since even the cheapest G-SYNC monitor is rather expensive.
Moving on to the mid-range area; This is where the AMD route can save you a lot of money as a certain G-SYNC monitor can be up to $300 more expensive than a basically identical monitor with FreeSync.
Due to the shortage of AMD’s high-end GPUs that could parry the performance of NVIDIA’s premium graphics cards, if you want the most impeccable gaming experience, you’d have to opt for one of the faster graphics cards by NVIDIA paired with either a G-SYNC monitor or a G-SYNC compatible FreeSync display.
If you have or plan to get an AMD card (or a FreeSync-compatible NVIDIA card) and intend on using it for a while, then there’s no question whether you should get a FreeSync monitor as it’s definitely worth it.
Of course, if you want the absolute best gameplay performance without any compromises, you should go for G-SYNC but keep in mind that you will have to pay the premium for it.
Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.